The Best Rear Tine Tillers Buying Guide of 2015 & 2016

Rear Tine Tiller Features To Look For


Rear tine tillers need to offer a lot of power because they are intended for very compact, rough ground. When you’re looking at the power, you’ll probably be looking for horsepower. Many rear tine tillers do highlight horsepower, with 8HP being a relatively powerful tiller. However, it’s more typical for rear tine tillers to just show the engine size. This appears as “250cc” or another number. The “cc” stands for cubic centimeters, so the larger the number before this measurement, the larger and more powerful the engine is. If your garden is particularly compact or it’s never been broken, you’ll want to be sure to get an engine in the 200’s.


Rear tine tillers use a few big engine brands, like Honda and Briggs & Stratton. You should also be on the lookout for terms like 4-cycle, OHV, and OHC. 4-cycle engines (also known as 4-stroke) differ from 2-cycle because they’re more fuel-efficient, quieter, and they last longer. OHV (overhead valve) engines are also known for their efficiency and quieter operation, as well as their relatively light weight. OHC engines (overhead camshaft) are similar, though they are manufactured to be even more compact while still offering significant power.


Another way to gauge the power of a rear tine tiller is to look at the torque. “Torque” is the measurement of how much force (how many pounds) an object needs in order to rotate. In practice, it appears as lb/feet, with a torque of 10 lb/ft being very high for a rear tine tiller. You want a high torque on your rear tine tiller since breaking compact, rough ground needs a lot of pressure behind the tines.


The tines on a rear tine tiller are crucial since they are doing all the work by digging up the soil. The tines on a rear tine tiller sit behind the engine, which is what differs the tiller from a front-tine tiller. When you are checking out the tines, you should know your options when it comes to how the tines move through the soil. The standard tines are forward-rotating tines. These move in the same direction as the wheels and are best when you are working with soil that is not extremely hard or has been broken before. Counter-rotating tines oppose the wheels, creating very powerful, deep digging that is great for soil that’s never been tilled. In terms of actual tine construction, most tines are made from hardened or spring steel, with heat-treated blades lasting longer.

Tine tilling width and depth

Depending on the size and price of the rear tine tiller, you will get a different tilling width and depth. For width, 17-18 inches is standard for most rear tine tillers meant for medium-large gardens. The advantage of a wide tilling width is that you can till faster without having to make a lot of passes. There are some tillers that are even narrower, and these are better if you have really tight spots in your garden that a wider tiller would not fit in. For depth, you usually get to adjust how deep the tines go, with 6-7 inches as the normal maximum depth. If your plot has never been tilled, you will want the deepest rear tine tiller you can get.


The gear transmission on rear tine tillers is very important because the tiller has to work in rocky, uneven terrain. A durable, smooth transmission will lengthen your tiller’s lifespan and give you better maneuverability. Good gear transmissions will be made to be very strong, and use materials like cast-iron and bronze gear drives. You should also look for gears that are versatile and can move both backwards and forwards. Reverse gearboxes allow for forward and reverse movement. The rear tine tiller will be easier to use and more flexible, which speeds up the chore.


Since a rear tine tiller is meant for rough ground, the tires are designed for balance and durability. With the tires in front of the tines, they need to be able to smoothly pull the tines with the engine. In terms of size, a 6-inch tire is on the small size with 13-16 inches being better for uneven ground and for larger tillers. In general, the bigger the tire, the more stability you will get. The tire tread is also important, so look for heavy or agricultural tread. These treads will allow you to work in a variety of soil conditions, like rocky or muddy.


Rear tine tillers have several features designed just for maneuverability. Plow-style handles allow for Just One Hand operation, which essentially means you can operate the tiller with using one hand. Balance is also crucial, so many rear tine tillers use drag bars and counterweights. A drag bar helps keep the tiller’s cutting depth consistent, while the counterweight puts weight on the tires, so the machine stays stable and grounded. A drag stake is similar to a drag bar, and can be adjusted with your desired tine depth.

Tank Size

Most rear tine tillers are gas-powered, so tank storage is something to be on the lookout for. 3-4 gallons is a large tank for a rear-tine tiller, so you can use the tiller for quite a while before needing to refill. While tillers with smaller tanks tend to be cheaper, you do have to factor in the inconvenience of needing to stop during longer chores to fill up again.


If you want a more energy-efficient rear-tine tiller with reduced emissions, look for CARB-compliant rear tine tillers. These are the machines that have been recognized by the California Air Resources Board for being more fuel-efficient and eco-friendly. If you live in California, you cannot buy a rear tine tiller unless it is CARB-compliant, but in other states, you have to check the specs.

Best Rear Tine Tiller Brands

Troy Bilt

Troy Bilt is the company that created the first rototiller in America in 1937, and they continue to make tillers as well as other outdoor lawn equipment like mowers and snow throwers. Their rear tine tillers are built for reliability and durability and use engine brands like Honda, Briggs & Stratton, and their own Troy-Bilt. Their transmissions are especially strong, and they hold the patent for Just One Hand operation.


Husqvarna Group, which is the outdoor power product line from Husqvarna, makes everything from tillers to lawn mowers to chainsaws. The Husqvarna brand first appeared in the 17th century as a weapons-manufacturer, but has since evolved far beyond its roots. Their rear tine tillers use engines like Honda and often cost under $1000, so they are affordable and reliable.


Earthquake is like Husqvarna in that they make rear tine tillers for around the same price. Earthquake is the powered chore equipment division of Ardisam, a design and manufacturing company. The Earthquake brand has been making equipment like generators, tillers, and cultivators for 50 years, so they’ve had a long time to refine their products.

Cub Cadet

Cub Cadet has been around since 1961 and makes a huge line of lawn mowers (riding, zero-turn, walk-behind) as well as rear tine tillers and other gardening equipment. They prioritize local workers and have built a four-state community they call “Strongsville,” where they have factories that build their products. Cub Cadet’s biggest claim to fame is that many of their rear tine tillers include self-sharpening tines, which means you don’t have to worry about maintaining your blades every year.

Other Brands

Other brands that make rear tine tillers include Southland, BCS, and MTD. Southland has been around for over 100 years and makes lawn equipment like edgers, trimmers, cultivators, and tillers. BCS is very popular among commercial workers like farmers as well as the mainstream market, and make equipment for all four-seasons. MTD, whose tillers (both rear and front tine) are called Yard Machines and have been around for 50 years.

Features of Professional & Commercial Rear Tine Tillers

Bumper guard

Rear tine tillers have a reputation for being safer than front tine tillers, and a bumper guard helps support that quality. Bumper guards also protect the engine, since it is right at the front and exposed to rocks and roots. A triangular bumper guard made from steel shields both you and the engine from all kinds of flying debris, which you are likely to encounter in unbroken ground.

More Depth and width

Rear tine tillers that dig very deep are more expensive than most tillers and are for exceptionally hard ground. A really wide width is also common for more expensive machines meant for really large plots of ground. 8-10 inches is considered very deep, with 20-30 inches for width. These rear tine tillers are ideal for professional landscapers and gardeners.

Self-sharpening tines

Self-sharpening blades are only available on certain professional rear tine models, and save you a lot of maintenance. Self-sharpening blades are created with a layered structure, so the first layer is extremely hard with high wear resistance. As this layer wears down, it exposes a second layer. Eventually, you do have to get self-sharpening blades removed and sharpened, but it takes a lot longer than with regular tine blades.

Speciality tines

In addition to forward-rotating and counter-rotating tines, there are two other tines that are not as common. Dual-rotating tines go both backward and forward, providing you with a lot of versatility and the ability to work in both soft and hard soil. These are available on higher-end, heavy-duty commercial rear tine tillers. The other kind of tine, vertical dual-rotating tines, are even more unusual. These are positioned up and down, and work the ground vertically with dual-rotation. These tines are exceptionally quiet and smooth.

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